At this point, Washington would be fortunate to finish in the National Invitation Tournament. That’s the cold hard truth following a demoralizing 72-59 loss to California on Saturday afternoon at Alaska Airlines Arena.
The Huskies (14-12, 6-7 Pac-12) are 1-4 in past five games before a two-game road trip. Considering Washington is 1-6 on the road in Pac-12 play, it wouldn’t be surprising if UW returns home at .500. The Huskies would then need to win two of its remaining three games – UW finishes with Washington State, UCLA and USC – to secure a winning regular-season record.
The only way, Washington reaches the NCAA tournament it’ll likely have to win the Pac-12 Tournament next month, which rewards the champion with a berth to the NCAAs.
Coach Lorenzo Romar knows the Huskies are in a precarious spot where things could go south in big way. Washington hasn’t played well in about a month. It’s last decisive win was a 71-54 victory over Colorado on Jan. 15, when the Buffaloes lost star guard Spencer Dinwiddie. If you discount that performance, then the Huskies most recent best outing was the Pac-12 opener when they went to Arizona State and pounded out a commanding 76-65 win.
After Saturday’s defeat, Romar said: “I don’t know if you can do it in three days, but we have to have a mental adjustment fast before we get out on that road.”
Romar has questioned the Huskies mental toughness before. In fact, you can say it’s been a constant theme this season.
Simply put, Washington plays in stretches. Rarely has UW put together a complete 40-minute game. The Huskies suffer from lapses on both ends of the court.
It’s happened in each of their four most recent defeats.
— Washington State used a 24-5 run over a 9:48 minute span in the second half to win 72-67.
— Utah used a 13-0 run over a 5:48 minute span early in the second half to win 78-67.
— Colorado needed 5:29 minutes to race out to a 20-4 lead in its 91-65 win.
— And California erased Washington’s 12-point lead with a 19-2 run over a 6:49-minute stretch to end the first half.
Washington never recovered in the second half and never got closer than five points.
During the decisive spurt, Romar took one timeout with 40 seconds remaining in the half. To his defense there were two media timeouts that stopped the action. Still, some wonder why he didn’t use more of his TOs to try and break Cal’s momentum.
Romar on Cal’s run: “We had a couple of careless turnovers. The ball didn’t go down. I looked up, there were several consecutive possessions where I just thought ‘oh my goodness, we’re not playing well right now.’ We were playing very well. I thought we could have really distanced ourselves more in the first half. I looked up and said ‘we’re not playing very well,’ and I looked at the scoreboard — we’re still up eight at that point. But at that point we got down on ourselves and we weren’t able to recover. The disappointing thing about that is Cal all of a sudden did not go on some 3-point shooting barrage where they were just hitting everything they threw up. It was there for the taking and we didn’t take it.”
During the spurt, Washington missed seven field goals and committed five turnovers. But the most amazing part is C.J. Wilcox didn’t attempt a shot. In fact, he was 0 for 2 in the first half before scoring a layup with nine seconds left before the break. In all fairness, Wilcox passed up at least two good looks at a three-pointer and dished to Andrew Andrews who made a three on both plays. Wilcox also had four assists in the first half.
At halftime, the UW coaches convinced Wilcox he needed to be more assertive as a shooter. Wilcox took nine shots in the second half.
“There have been games when C.J. hasn’t taken as many shots in the first half and ended up with 20 points,” Romar said. “And that would probably have been the case tonight. The ball just wasn’t going down for him tonight. He had some open looks. It just didn’t go down. He still would have scored at a high level.
“C.J. is not a selfish ballplayer. Take away the open looks at times when guys are running at him, he just feels he needs to make the extra pass.”
Washington shot 35.9 percent from the field. The Bears scored 20 points off of UW’s 14 turnovers. Cal also had 14 fast-break points while UW had six. Cal was 14 of 22 on free throws and UW 9 fo 11.
MORE NOTES, QUOTES AND OBSERVATIONS:
— Andrews snapped out of his three-game slump in a major way. He finished with 21 points, which tied his personal best. He converted 8 of 18 field goals and 3 of 6 three-pointers. Andrews also had a career-high tying eight rebounds.
— Despite foul trouble, Perris Blackwell had 10 points and 11 rebounds in 25 minutes. He was efficient offensively while shooting 4 of 6 from the field and 2 of 3 at the line. Still, Blackwell had trouble containing Richard Solomon, who torched the Huskies for a second straight game. He had 18 points on 8-for-11 shooting and seven rebounds.
— Nigel Williams-Goss got off to a great start scoring nine of his 12 points in the first half. But he was 1 for 7 shooting in the second half and had difficulty getting his floater over Cal’s big front line. Williams-Goss also committed six turnovers, although he had a few passes slip past would-be receivers. In the first half, Williams-Goss delivered a beautiful bounce pass to Desmond Simmons for a layup. It was his only assist.
— Wilcox has failed to score at least nine points for the second time in the past three games. You have to wonder if he’s beginning to wear down after carrying the Huskies for most of the season. Or maybe teams have a better scouting report on him lately. Not sure about Wilcox wearing down because defensively he’s pretty active. He had four blocks against Cal.
— For the most part, Simmons and Mike Anderson neutralized David Kravish who had 11 points and 11 rebounds against UW in the first meeting. Today, the Cal forward finished with eight points and five rebounds. Meanwhile, Simmons had four points and six rebounds and Anderson had four and three.
— Quiet game for Shawn Kemp Jr. who was scoreless on 0-for-2 shooting and had two rebounds in 19 minutes.
— Same goes for Darin Johnson who was scoreless on 0-for-2 shooting in five minutes. He didn’t play in the second half.